Thanksgiving

Autumn PathAs I write, the season’s first snow is falling in the November night. It is cold and the streets are empty. Downstairs, Jennie is cooking for tomorrows feast. I’m taking a few minutes to write as tomorrow promises to be very busy, being Thanksgiving Day here in the US. Given the news this week from around the country, it will be a troubled day for many. Thanksgiving Day itself has a troubled history, or rather multiple histories. Yet we continue to gather with family and friends on the last Thursday in November to celebrate the harvest and express gratitude to the Creator. Continue reading

It’s Deer Season and Native American Heritage Month!

DSC_0121November is Native American Heritage Month and deer season. There are innumerable resources on the web if you want to learn more about Native America, and lots of old timers about who will tell you stories of deer camp.

Today is a stereotypical New England November day, overcast, damp, and chilly. Being the end of November, and sure enough the conversation in cafes and pubs throughout Vermont has turned to deer hunting and Thanksgiving. Not much mention of Native American Heritage Month though.

Vermont has been home to a subsistence economy throughout its human history. Our climate has often been unkind to farming, although one might grow abundant crops in a good year. Climate change has lengthened our growing season considerably; if one can avoid the new cycle of flood and drought, and the new insects, one can do pretty well most years. Anyway, people have long needed to hunt and fish to supplement whatever crops they could grow. Deer,moose, turkey, and grouse have long been crucial to the subsistence diet. Many people in Vermont still hunt as a subsistence necessity; many others do so as a treasured family tradition. Deer camp even trumps Thanksgiving dinner. Continue reading

Held by All-That-Is

Autumn_WoodIt is good to situate ourselves within All-That-Is, understand ourselves as part of Creation, and give a sacred context to our lives. To live in relation to All-That-Is is to reside in the unfathomable and holy immensity of the universe. It is to be part of, and held by, a great unfolding mystery. Continue reading

Spirits, Shamans, and the Unsettling of Ecopsychology

DSC_0155I’ve been thinking about the links between Ecopsychology and Shamanism. It makes sense to me that Ecopsychology would be drawn to the wisdom of Indigenous people. After all, we Indigenous tend to see ourselves in the context of both human society and the natural world. The attraction of shamanism is that it attempts to maintain the balance between human and non-human communities. Continue reading

November and Remembrance

Autumn_WoodNovember is a month of Remembrance. Last weekend we honored the Ancestors and other departed loved ones. This week we remember the veterans who have served our country in peacetime and war. Later in the month Thanksgiving arrives with its complex patina of memory, culture and meaning.

November in Vermont brings dark gray skies and dramatic swings in temperature. There are few sunny days, night comes early, and the snow line slowly moves down the mountains. Here by the lake the wind has a bite when it comes from the west or northwest. As a result, we burn wood in the wood stove more often as the month and the cold advance.

The longer nights and deepening chill encourage us to turn inward, physically and spiritually, and the idea of hibernation becomes more inviting. As the month progresses the spirits seem to gather around the hearth; this is a time for sharing stories, personal, sacred and profane. It is a good time for remembering and appreciating those who made our lives possible, and pondering our role as bridges between the generations. Continue reading

Ancestors

Late_Autumn_FieldOn Saturday I met with a small group to teach practices for acknowledging, and working with, the ancestors. The time seemed propitious as the weekend coincided with sacred days honoring the dead in both the Catholic and Indigenous practices of the Americas. I was honored to spend time with these women, all of whom have sought to walk paths of beauty, living lives that honor Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

The ancestors are always with us, never leaving our sides, yet they seem more approachable now. The growing cold and lengthening darkness have long heralded their return to our communities, and a shift from the personal to the collective. Continue reading

Humor: When Cultures Go Bump In the Night

Autumn_LakeHumor is at the heart of many shamanic traditions around the world. Indeed, Indigenous people, contrary to popular perception, are very funny.  We like to laugh; at the same time, our humor often has teeth. A splendid example of this is the writing of Sherman Alexi. Another, more recent set of poignant, heartbreaking, often hilarious truth statements can be found at the Twitter hashtag, #ColonizedAnonymous, most beginning with “I was so colonized….”

Laughter is often, for oppressed people, an act of resistance and solidarity. Shared humor builds community and improves mental and physical health. It also may honey coat difficult messages, replacing shaming with play. Continue reading